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Tools for writing #3 – Text expansion

In my Tools for writing series I will be highlighting some of the writing tools that work for me. This is not to say they’re the best tools for everyone, but they are for me.


For the past few years I’ve been highly dependent on text expansion software to make sure my writing comes out looking OK. The reason why? I make many, many spelling mistakes. I’m sure that I’m not alone in this, but I’m also a bit of a perfectionist.

A lazy perfectionist, if such a thing exists.

To combat my fear of spelling mistakes, I’ve come to rely upon text expansion tools. There are many of these tools out there: PhraseExpress, Text Expander, Typinator. The tool I chose? Alfred.

Alfred is a productivity app for Mac OS and it’s been around for many, many years. I’ve been using it as a Powerpack-user (the paid upgrade) to unlock all of its features. These features also include text expansion.

In short: text expansion apps track what you write. All the time, no matter where. So as soon as I write “teh” Alfred will catch it and automatically convert it into “the”.

Over time I’ve built up a good list of common mistakes and the correct spelling now lives in Alfred. So whether it’s necessary, neccessary or necesary: Alfred will make sure it’ll always come out the right way.

On top of all the other features it has which make my life easier, this is one writing tool I couldn’t imagine writing without. Combined with the power of Scrivener as the engine for my manuscript and Hemingway as the fine-tuning app, Alfred rounds out the trio of apps that are most important to my fiction writing on the Mac.


Tools for writing #2 – Hemingway

In my Tools for writing series I will be highlighting some of the writing tools that work for me. This is not to say they’re the best tools for everyone, but they are for me.

In my previous post on writing with Scrivener, I highlighted how it’s an amazing program to write my manuscripts in. The second program I use for the majority of my writing is a neat little application called Hemingway. Named after the famous author who was known for his concise writing style, this application highlights different aspects of your writing.

Unfortunately there is no easy integration yet between Scrivener and Hemingway, so I spend my time copy-and-pasting (or using the external sync folder). That is a small price to pay since I find that Hemingway helps me in my writing for the following reasons:

  • Seeing my text in a different font and layout brings a fresh look to my writing.
  • The colour-coding is very helpful. I don’t follow all its suggestions to the letter, but it’s helped highlight some weaker areas of my prose can could do with some tightening up.
  • It provides a solid interface for editing my manuscript. Afterwards I do a quick copy-and-paste back into Scrivener and I label a scene as “Edited”.
  • The Readability grade is interesting in an arbitrary sense: I don’t want to be writing at Grade 6 for the majority of my manuscript and suddenly jump to 10 in a few scenes. It should be consistent throughout on that level as well.

The Hemingway app exists in multiple shapes, the biggest difference being the online editor or the local application. I decided to purchase it, since I much prefer working in native applications than online writing tools. Not that my internet connection has died on me in the recent past, but I prefer to work with bits and bytes on my own machine with plenty of backups running.

As writing enthusiasts, we all have our tools that we prefer. For me it’s a combination of Scrivener & Hemingway that gets the job done.


Tools for writing #1 – Scrivener & my writing process

In my Tools for writing series I will be highlighting some of the writing tools that work for me. This is not to say they’re the best tools for everyone, but they are for me.

What’s Scrivener?

For the first post in this series, I’m focusing on a digital tool that has helped me in many situations: Scrivener by Literature and Latte. Scrivener is the beating heart of all my manuscripts, it’s the place where I do all of my writing.

I first came across Scrivener as part of a software bundle years ago and have been a happy user ever since then. The recent addition of the iOS app has only made me happier since I can now tinker on my manuscript on my phone wherever I am.

What’s so great about it?

In short, Scrivener is a software programme specifically designed for writers. It’s a non-linear editing tool (farewell endless scrolling in a Word document) that makes it easy to write snippets of text and string them all together. Its many options for customisation ensure that I always know which part of my manuscript I’ve revised, tweaked or tinkered with.

The word count feature is also incredibly useful. With daily word counts, overall project word counts and anything in between, it’s easy to keep track of the size of your manuscript as your story grows.

The way you can easily integrate external files into your project help me to build an extensive wiki-like area within my manuscript file where I can build up the world of my story in as much detail as I want. The same goes for the most important characters of my story. With customisable templates for character sheets, I can make sure that none of my characters change eye colour mid-story.

Is it easier to write then?

For me, it helps. By breaking the story up into multiple parts and writing on small sections instead of one big flow, my manuscript definitely feels less intimidating. It’s easier to keep track of things as I shuffle parts of my story around as well.

Now Scrivener also allows for further integration with Aeon Timeline, for example. I have to say I tried this but found it too complex for my taste. But if complex timelines are an integral part of your plotting, that’s definitely another plus for Scrivener.

In the end though, Scrivener is still a tool. And that means, like any other tool, you need to use it to get anything out of it. If you find it difficult to find motivation to write, Scrivener can lower the barrier a bit, but in the end… you still need to sit in that chair and type out those words.

It’s only that it’s a much more joyous experience to type them out in Scrivener.